The government has been accused of being “a hell of a long way short” of its targets for planting  8,000/ha of new forestry this year in Seanad Eireann.

Senator Victor Boyhan said he believes the government will not meet its targets this year and has warned that the “failure” to hit the planning targets “threatens the future supplies of our timber”.

Senator Boyhan raised the issue of forestry planting licenses and state aid approval for the government’s new €1.3 billion Forestry Programme in the Seanad this week.

The senator highlighted that there was “a frustration among foresters and farmers about the delays” to the launch of the programme.

The proposed forestry programme which will cover the period 2023 to 2027 is subject to state aid approval by the European Commission before it can be implemented in Ireland.

Senator Boyhan said he welcomed the “ambitious plans”, but he also warned that if Ireland failed to meet forestry targets there would be implications in terms of “climate targets and aspirations and ambitions”.

“There have only been 5 km of road licences and the lowest volume of felling licences for 2023. That is the reality of it.

“Back in 2010, which was a peak for us, 7,929 farmers planted forests over an area that covered 8,314 ha. When we move to 2021, the most recent figures from the CSO tell us that we have a drop from 7,929 farmers down to 360.

“The government’s target is 8,000/ha. We are a hell of a long way short of all of that,” Senator Boyhan stated.

Senator Boyhan questioning Minister Hackett in the Seanad Source: Seanad Eireann

He asked the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), Green Party Senator Pippa Hackett, to update the Seanad on how many forestry planting licences had been granted from the start of this year.

The minister said DAFM “cannot issue licences for grant-aided afforestation, roads or forestry support schemes” until the new forestry programme is in place.

She told the Seanad that the “formal submission” had been made to the commission for approval of the €1.3 billion programme.

In the meantime Minister Hackett said felling licences had continued to be issued and in 2023, 957 felling licences had issued for 11,000/ha.

She also referred to the “interim” schemes – based on the de minimis rule which effectively makes them exempt from state aid rules.for afforestation and roads – which are currently in place until a decision is granted by the commission on the new programme.

“To date in 2023, a total of 261 applications have been approved under the interim afforestation scheme, representing more than 1,000/ha. Under the interim roads scheme, 71 approvals have issued representing more than 27,000 m.

“Of the 1,583/ha approved in 2023 for afforestation under the interim scheme, over 700/ha of planting has been completed and planting has commenced on a further area in excess of 500/ha,” Minister Hackett added.

But when Senator Boyhan questioned the minister on when exactly the government had made the submission to the European Commission for state approval for the new forestry programme for 2023 to 2027, Minister Hackett was unable to supply the exact date.

The senator said in his opinion “forestry is in crisis”.

” We are heading into May and no approvals have been given, despite all of the promises,” he stated.

But it is not just Senator Boyhan who, this week, has accused the government of failing to deliver on the new forestry programme.


Members of the Rural Independent Group have also hit out specifically at the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue and Minister Hackett for “their failure to fulfill promises made regarding a much-needed forestry program”.

The Independent TD for Cork south-west, Michael Collins said:

“The 2023 planting season is almost over, and the forestry industry has been let down by both ministers as the 2023 planting season has been almost missed entirely, with forestry contractors sitting in limbo.”

Meanwhile the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) said the delay on securing approval for Ireland’s new forestry programme from the commission had “taken its toll”.

“Farmers that want to plant and avail of the new grants and premiums cannot make an application at present and will continue to be excluded from planting until state aid approval has been granted.

“The programme needs to be opened as a matter of urgency,” said Jason Fleming, IFA national farm forestry chair.